Role of Auditory Feedback in the Bengalese Finch Animal Model

McGrath, Jake
Learned forms of vocal communication, such as human speech and birdsong, rely on auditory experience for their acquisition, refinement and maintenance. This dependence is most evident when sensory feedback is lost, as both speech and song rapidly deteriorate following deafening. Notably, the Bengalese finches studied here are the most dependent on auditory feedback of any songbird studied to date. We altered the feedback experience d during singing by changing the composition of the atmosphere in which birds sang. Previous studies indicated that replacing air with a helium/oxygen mixture elevated the pitch of auditory feedback, and changes in pitch were associated with altered sequences of song notes. In contrast, our preliminary data reveal that birds can compensate for induced elevations in pitch and those compensations are associated with no change in vocal sequence. Ongoing studies will test the effect of artificially lowering the pitch of auditory feedback to test whether errors are permissive, such that similar changes occur regardless of the error, or are instructive, such that specific changes occur in each altered condition. Our findings are consistent with recent demonstrations of compensatory ability in other facets of Bengalese finch song, suggesting that compensation may be a strategy to counteract perturbations in auditory feedback such that normal behavior is preserved.
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